Never in the recent past have the debates over the matter of women's progression in their careers been as big as they are now. Nevertheless, the matter has always been discussed but not with the same intensity as it is today. With an increasing percentage of women in United States workforce (53%) in all professions, different barriers to progress have gone up.
Barriers To Women's Career Progression
Taking a holistic look at the women's career path makes clear that while most barriers are external, there some which are also internal.
Historically, male-dominated society has always viewed women as unequal and relegated women to secondary career positions. This is still being reflected in the modern skill-based job market by assigning women more and more to routine and mundane jobs that hardly carry decision-making authority. Even within new Human Resource Management processes, many processes for recruitment, interviews and aptitude tests, are sometimes centered on men rather than women.
While entry-level jobs such as teaching, healthcare and accounting are open to everyone, the dominant male population, which already occupies these jobs, leaves less room for women to enter and make a mark. Of late, the balance may be found to be shifting in favor of women, but the very nature of jobs in this category is such that women's upward mobility is far from being significant because of the fundamental and apparent lack of headroom (the glass ceiling). Women intrinsically think themselves to be at an advantage in typical jobs, which is evident from the statistics available: 53% women as opposed to 47% men. This is what can be called a socio-gender-related problem. It is gender-related because men have an advantage over women by in the types of jobs that require a lot of travel, or those which are physical in nature.
Women of substance have excelled in their independent careers. One doesn't need to look too far for names, as they are so dominant in their professions that their names could inspire those who want to tread their career paths. Why this can't be replicated in private industry? HRM practitioners complain that there is just not enough talent for the top jobs. Even organic or preferential promotions to the top jobs are almost always based on the natural progression principle.
Other areas of concern, such as maternity leave, are also hindering women's progression, although you would be hard-pressed to find an executive who would speak about this openly. Privately, many male executives cite women's lack of demonstrated willingness and courage to take bold steps as decision-makers and lack of risk-taking behavior as some of the most major psychological barriers.
In order to remove some of the physical and psychological barriers to women's career progression in private industry, a major attitudinal shift has to be made. Change will not come instantly, but over time, as society becomes more comfortable with women's increasing role in the business world.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.